General practices across the country have been sent a critical letter on an indicative vote.
The text of the letter question surgeries on whether they will be prepared to participate in a collective closure of practice lists.
This headline-grabbing activity would be a response to the perceived failure of NHS England’s GP Forward View to provide adequate resources.
And the British Medical Association is now asking doctors whether they would temporarily suspend patient registrations, or apply to local commissioners for formal list closure, as an industrial action measure.
LMC representatives had agreed on the ballot at the annual conference in Edinburgh, which took place back in May.
In a letter to the profession, acting GPC chair Dr Richard Vautrey outlined how the process will unfold.
“GPC England has been asked to ballot practices as to whether GPs in England are prepared to collectively close their practice lists. Such action would constitute industrial action, and with significant implications on GPs as independent contractors.”
Vautrey also reminded healthcare professionals to submit their responses to this ballot as soon as possible.
“GPC England needs a clear understanding of the views of all GP practices on this issue, and I would therefore urge you to ensure that your practice takes part in the ballot by Thursday 10 August 2017.”
Should an affirmative vote emerge in the indicative ballot, the General Practitioners Committee would consult with the British Medical Association council in order to review the results and consider a formal ballot.
An accompanying FAQ document explains that the ballot is aimed at practices rather than individual GPs, and recommends partners meet to agree their vote.
While liability for any decision lies with partnerships, the BMA encouraged practices to involve sessional GPs in the decision.
The document warned that, as contractors, practices could face breach notices if any action is deemed a breach of contract.
“There is a risk that temporary suspension of new registrations for the purposes of taking industrial action may be deemed as a breach of contract. However there is no case law in this regard, which means definitive advice is difficult to offer.”
London GP Dr Jackie Applebee was central to the LMC conference motion, calling on her fellow doctors to accept the industrial action.
Evidence was particularly cited indicating that around 80% of GPs assert that their workloads are unmanageable.
While practices collectively closing their lists would undermine access for some patients in the short-term, Applebee suggested that it is currently impossible for the majority of doctors to accept more patients and provide adequate, and even safe, service.
Recent polls have suggested that around 60% of GPs would be willing to participate in a collective closure of practice lists.